New York prison officials and Governor Andrew Cuomo were urged in a letter sent Tuesday by three dozen criminal justice advocates, attorneys and affected families to release incarcerated people vulnerable to contracting coronavirus.
The push to release inmates is intensifying after the death of a Rikers Island jail inmate of the virus as he was held on a technical parole violation.
“All New Yorkers have an inherent right to dignity, care and compassion, including incarcerated individuals. If the state’s officials and leaders fail to act, both the people incarcerated and those charged with care in prison will face prolonged sickness and, in many cases, death,” they wrote in the letter, sent to Cuomo, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Commissioner Anthony Annucci and Parole Board Chairwoman Tina Stanford. “The moment is now for elected officials and our appointed leaders to take swift, immediate action.”
The Cuomo administration has said it has placed safeguards in prisons amid the pandemic and inmates have access to hand sanitizer.
But advocates argue that the more aggressive practices of preventing the spread of the virus — social distancing, self-quarantining and frequent hand washing — are virtually impossible in a corrections setting.
The letter also comes as corrections officers have been calling for increased protections of personal protective equipment while working in prisons in order to prevent the spread of the virus.